What Motivates Getting Things Done

What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success
Mary Lamia
Rowman & Littlefield (June 2017)

“The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
Steven Wright

There is often a fine line between extended reflection and procrastination. In any workforce, some people demonstrate paralysis by analysis; there are others whose haste makes waste of resources. According to Mary Lamia, those who combine breakthrough thinking and high-impact results are deadline-driven.

More specifically, successful people are motivated and even driven to achieve by both positive emotions (e.g. “imagining a future reward”) and negative emotions (e.g. “distress, fear, anger, disgust, and shame”) and Lamia wrote this book in order to help her reader understand how to activate positive emotions and de-activate (if not eliminate) negative emotions.

With regard to great managers, they “don’t try to change their employees, but instead, they identify their employees’ unique abilities, recognize their diverse learning and implementation styles, and help them use those qualities to excel in their own way…Similarly, it is important for managers to recognize that tasks motivate some people who report to them, but that others may be motivated by deadlines. Further, whether an employee completes a task early on or at the deadline is less important than evaluating outcome. Productivity can be increased when managers recognize motivational goals and set goals accordingly.”

That brief excerpt contains several key points. Perhaps the most important is that managers must use “different strokes for different folks.” People tend to do best what they enjoy doing most. One of the most valuable dimensions of workplace alignment is having the right people doing the right work to achieve the given strategic objectives.

In Chapter 9, Lamia provides a “Troubleshooting Guide” to assist those who have deadline-driven style or a task-driven style. She also offers specific recommendations when troubleshooting failing motivation. It is human nature to lose momentum. As decades of research by Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University clearly indicate, peak performance cannot be sustained indefinitely. It is also true that people can be de-motivated for a variety of reasons that include not feeling appreciated or seeing few (if any) opportunities for personal growth and professional development.

Mary Lamia offers a wealth of information, insights, and counsel that can help almost anyone who reads the book to determine their actual motivational style, to engage mentors who employ a motivational style that aligns with theirs, to recognize and respond to issues that could or do compromise the quality of their work, and to realize how their efforts affect others, for better or worse.

How to conclude this brief commentary? I defer to Maya Angelou for some excellent advice: “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”

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